Kindred spirit. Sidekick. Buddy. Whatever we call our friends, we often turn to them for advice. They have our backs and we have theirs. But close friendships don’t just happen. At some point, we become intentional about developing and maintaining a bond.
I was reminded of this truth as I met my friend Tracey for breakfast recently. I hadn’t seen her for a few months. We had plenty to catch up on.
Our friendship budded about six years ago. It happened because we stood on common ground. At the time, we belonged to the same church. We’re both married and have children. And as we’ve learned over time, we both have a lot to say about what’s on our heart and mind.
At the onset, Tracey and I committed to praying for each other and each other’s families. Now, texts of prayer request fly between us almost quicker than you can say “Amen.” Our decision to become prayer partners was a leap of faith. I didn’t know the leap would give our friendship a whole new look.
When we share what we have in common, friendships bud. When we share each other’s burdens, friendships bloom.
The budding kind may appear in an instant. The blooming kind develops over time. Sharing burdens is not the same as sharing a hobby, a neighborhood or a pew. Tracey and I quickly came to this realization. The weighty issues of our lives waited for our response. Thankfully, Galatians 6:2-3 gave us a nudge in the right direction:
“Share each other’s burdens and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.”(NLT)
Well since it’s a law, I’d better pay attention. Obedience is its own reward and in this case the reward is a blooming friendship. It displays petals of mutual caring, respect and the most fragile petal of all — trust.
But what about the statement “You are not that important?” It seems harsh at first. Of course we’re important to God. He gave His Son Jesus to die for our sins. However, if we fail to see someone else’s importance, we are only fooling ourselves.
In order to swap burdens, we need to swap something else too. Are we willing to swap our pride for God’s grace and our weakness for His strength?
When you look at your friendships do you see any blooms? There’s a “trust” bridge I must cross to see my friendships grow. I am grateful for the brave, like-minded souls who dare to cross it with me.
The bridge sways with my emotions. The wind becomes fierce from life’s pressures or the enemy’s attack. If I look back over my shoulder, second thoughts cause hesitation. But the words of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 hold me fast to the friendship process:
“Two people are better than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (NLT)
A friendship may bud because we sense its potential. But a friendship blooms as we commit to fulfill God’s purpose.
By God’s grace, Tracey and I continue to help each other succeed or help each other when we fall. I continue to trust God to help each of my friends and me. After all, He is the Gardener. “He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (John 15:1-2 NLT)
Regardless of where we are on the friendship journey, here’s some good news: God is with us. He helps our friendships bud and bloom by pruning us according to His will. Ultimately, He’s the Friend that sticks closer than any other — the One who brings hope to the heart and joy to the soul.
“A friend loves at all times.” – Proverbs 17:17a NIV